Reviews: The Rolling Stones at Staples/The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the DGA

Still can’t believe my friend Cate invited me to watch The Rolling Stones kick off their current tour at Staples Center last Friday. Still can’t believe how great they are live. Like the blues musicians they grew up idolizing, The Stones have become not only timeless but ageless masters… Yes, to kick off the evening they had the UCLA marching band play “Satisfaction” following a video montage of musicians, filmmakers, and fans sharing their devotion to Their Satanic Majesties; there were guest appearances by Gwen Stefani and Keith Urban; and the CSULB choir sang a chillingly beautiful intro “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to make it a special night. But really it’s all about their enormously heavy catalog of songs. Everyone from The New York Dolls to Aerosmith has tried in their own way to channel The Stones’ primal, evil grooves but The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band remains just that. Everyone talks about how Mick and Keef have survived with style but Ronnie and Charlie are effortlessly on point and cool…

Set list: Get Off My Cloud, This Could Be The Last Time, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It), Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Wild Horses (w/Gwen Stefani), Factory Girl, Emotional Rescue, Respectable (w/ Keith Urban), Doom and Gloom, One More Shot, Honky Tonk Woman, Before They Make Me Run, Happy, Midnight Rambler (w/ Mick Taylor), Miss You, Tumbling Dice, Brown Sugar, Sympathy for the Devil. Encore: You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Jumping Jack Flash, Satisfaction.

Was that really the first time The Stones have ever played “Emotional Rescue” in concert? Were they really asked to play Staples just so The Lakers wouldn’t seem so old? If 85 dollar tickets are made available for their return to Staples on the 20th, snag them. It’s totally worth it. And if you already threw down 150-600 bucks on tickets, you already know what I’m ranting about. The 2 hours and 15 minutes was loaded with classics but there are so many even more I wanted to hear: Citadel, Bitch, Angie, She’s So Cold, Let It Bleed, Waiting on a Friend, Street Fighting Man… I totally want to see them again because this really could be the last time.


The next day, I was pleased to not only spend all day at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival but get to introduce movies and conduct post-screening interviews with filmmakers there. Since I witnessed my friend and master interviewer Joe Escalante in action just a week or so ago, I was extra inspired to not only have decent questions for my interviewees but have fun with the event as well.

First, I got to introduce Kalyanee Mam, who directed the understated, beautiful, and courageous documentary about the economic and environmental challenges faced by modern Cambodia, A River Changes Course. As a guy who likes to screw around a little in Q&As, I was a little intimidated by her serious subject matter and distanced style of filmmaking but she is lively, funny, and an excellent interview. What an intelligent, driven, and humble person she is.

Next up were Duc Nguyen and Mai-Phuong Nguyen, who made Stateless, a gripping documentary about Boat People living illegally in the Philippines with a final chance to move to the United States. I compared it to Spellbound and First Position and Duc was okay with that. Also on the bill was Haitao Guo, whose “Lao Tang” short presents the surly view of a Chinese immigrant who toils in a Philly restaurant. It turned out to be a really interesting balance between the experienced filmmaking couple and up-and-coming guy armed with a camera and their contrasting styles and overlapping subject matter.

My final assignment was Abigail Harm. The gorgeous and open-ended yet powerful indie feature mixes aspects of fables and sci-fi to study the fragile needs of damaged humankind as played by Amanda Plummer. Producer Eugene Suen, director Lee Isaac Chung, and actor Tetsuo Kuramochi were present for the Q&A as well as the unannounced presence of cameo actor Ayako Fujitani. I’ve known Ayako for a while, and perhaps that helped make it such an enjoyable, personable chat that ranged from the conceptual to the profane. So much fun.

Did I mention that two of my picks were also among the L.A. Weekly’s four picks? I haven’t had many chances to do stuff like this since Giant Robot mag bit the dust a couple of years ago, and I look forward to doing it again in Koreatown on Wednesday, May 8 for The Sound of Crickets at Night. Support independent cinema! Support film festivals! See you there!

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